Tag Archives: Ozark wildlife

Resident Northern Water Snake

The only constant in nature is change. Our resident northern water snake has seen there first hand.

At first the snake took up residence in chunks of broken concrete dumped along the creek near the bridge to stabilize the bank. There was a deep inlet of the creek there with lots of fish coming and going.

The two foot long snake would bask among the rocks. Then it would slide into the creek to catch a large minnow for its daily meal.

northern water snake on concrete piece
Years ago the resident northern water snake was small enough to coil on the top of a piece of concrete to enjoy the sun.

Clumps of grass edged into the creek closing the inlet off into a pond. A willow grew on the island. A bullfrog lived in the pond too.

The willow is dead and gone. The grass clumps are more numerous. The pond water level has dropped. And the northern water snake seemed to have moved elsewhere.

Each nice morning the goats tromp out past the pond on their way to the bridge. Lately I have gone out with them to enjoy the walk out to the south pasture and back. On the way along the bank a ripple of movement revealed the northern water snake disappearing down under the concrete chunks.

Several mornings since I’ve seen the snake lying in loose coils hidden in the grass, but enjoying the sunshine. It has grown to nearly four feet long and as thick as my wrist.

Some people confuse a water snake with a cottonmouth. They are not the same. A water snake is not poisonous, more brownish, but cranky and will bite if harassed. Even so, it prefers retreat.

northern water snake in grass
This year the northern water snake is a bit big to coil on one concrete piece. The weather has been hot so the grass spot over the pond bank is favored for snake relaxing.

Looking at the snake hidden in the grass I’m reminded of “The Carduan Chronicles” as my intrepid survivors encounter snakes. And they are dinner size.

That brings to mind an interesting science nature lesson called the hundred inch walk. You measure out 100 inches of cord. Lay it on the ground in a grassy or natural area.

Now you lie down and ‘walk’ along your cord exploring the distance from ground height. Who lives there? What can you see? Perhaps you will walk through a grass clump and meet a northern water snake.

Learn more about northern water snakes in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Watching Wildlife

Since no dogs live here, watching wildlife is a fun pastime. Wildlife can be a problem, but seeing it is still a treat.

Raccoons and opossums generally come after dark. When they become a nuisance, the livetrap is set out and we see them in the trap before taking them elsewhere.

ground squirrel watching me
This ground squirrel might be looking for a new place to live, but the yard is definitely not a good choice. Foxes would find it a delicious morsel. These squirrels are cute creatures. I hope this one found its way to a safer territory.

Ground squirrels seem to be everywhere lately. These are belligerent characters when challenged. Mostly they are a blur crossing the road with their tails held straight up.

Watching wildlife on the road is important. Many dither or panic as the vehicle comes up. Snakes and turtles tend to stay put and need persuasion to get off the road.

copperhead snake on road
Copperheads are poisonous, true. Most are not aggressive and will take off given the chance. Their bites make my goats swell up, usually a leg, and hurt for a day or two. Then the swelling goes down and all is fine. In cooler weather snakes bask on the gravel road for the warmth. This includes green grass, black rat, hognose, ring and middlin brown as well as copperheads. It’s a great opportunity for looking at them as they lie still unless disturbed. I make sure they get off the road before driving on as so many people deliberately run over them.

The local coyotes have given us some special opportunities for watching wildlife. The coyotes tend to stay back on the hills and in the ravines away from the pastures and buildings making the areas safer.

Deer bed their fawns down in the tall grass in the pastures. One was next to the pasture gate and discovered when the goats went traipsing out.

watching wildlife as a fawn takes luck
A motionless fawn curled up in tall grass is a brown hump easily overlooked. Normally I see them as a small, white tail disappearing in the distance. This one stayed put as the goats and I tromped out past it, never seeing it. I saw it on my way in from the bridge.

Coyotes kill foxes making them rather rare in the area. One pair has moved by the house to raise their four kits.

This is the second year this pair has been here. Last year half of my hens disappeared. I am more careful this year and keep them up most of the time.

The fox family is very shy. Any hint we are around sends them into the brush. Luckily the house has lots of windows.

watching wildlife from inside the house keeps shy foxes in view
Grey foxes are like small dogs in size, about double a big house cat. They are pretty and fun to watch. The kits are growing up and mother fox is taking them out into the brush. She is very attentive to them, but demands immediate obedience.

The male fox sometimes curls up out in the back yard. His favorite spot is a ways out from the bathroom window making taking pictures easy. He does know I’m there, but doesn’t find me a threat as I am in the house.

One day the kits were out in the same area. Mother fox let them play a few minutes before leading them off across the yard and into the woods.

Watching wildlife is fascinating. It is also a matter or luck: being in the right place at the right time, camera in hand.